Maid Marian or the lady Marian has a pretty variable biography – Saxon maid or noble Norman lady – but she is firmly associated with Robin Hood. It was not always so – she became linked to Robin only after he was promoted to the nobility some time in the sixteenth century. In story Robin Hood, and hence Marian, are firmly linked to the years 1190–1194, when king Richard I was on crusade and prince John seized the regency from bishop Longchamp, Richard’s designated justiciar.
Marian is undoubtedly pure fiction. For Robin there are three possibilities: that like Marian he is pure fiction; that he is based on some real outlaw whose story has been embroidered until the original is unrecognisable; that he is a personalisation of the term Rabunhod which seems to have been used as a form of shorthand for any fugitive or outlaw during the late thirteenth century. One of the earliest literary references occurs in William Langland’s Piers Plowman (1362–1386) where the lazy priest confesses: ‘I kan not parfitly my Paternoster as the preest it singeth, But I kan rymes of Robyn Hood.’ Recently, the only English chronicle entry which mentions Robin Hood was discovered at Eton College as a marginal annotation, written around 1460, on a page covering events between 1294 and 1299 in an early fifteenth-century copy of the Polychronicon: ‘Around this time, according to popular opinion, a certain outlaw named Robin Hood, with his accomplices, infested Sherwood and other law-abiding areas of England with continuous robberies.’ At the most one can say that by the fifteenth century people believed that there had been a Robin Hood but quite possibly believed him to have lived a hundred later than where the story now places him.
All this has given filmakers considerable freedom in choosing how to portray Marian, and they’ve taken full advantage of the flexibility.
Robin Hood (2010): An expert archer, previously interested only in self-preservation, returns to England after king Richard’s death in France. In Nottingham he finds himself battling the corruption of a despotic sheriff and crippling taxation, and he falls for the spirited widow lady Marian (Cate Blanchett) – a woman skeptical of the identity and motivations of this crusader from the forest. Paul Engelen was the makeup designer; Rebecca Lafford was Cate Blanchett’s personal makeup artist.
Beyond Sherwood Forest (2009): In 1174 with King Richard away fighting the Crusade, his brother Prince John has been left in charge and plans to marry the beautiful young Maid Marian (Erica Durance) to a Norwegian prince. For some reason, I assume, there’s also a girl who transforms into a dragon. Debi Lelievre was the key makeup artist.
Robin Hood (2006): This TV series featured Lucy Griffiths as Marian until – unusually – they killed her off. I’d never previously associated Vibram soles with the twelfth century. Kajtar ‘Bogyo’ Janosne was the hair stylist & makeup supervisor.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993): I not sure why Mel Brooks thought he could spoof Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which was itself an unintentional spoof, but he tried anyway. Amy Yasbeck was Marian. Coming soon …
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991): Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was Marian Dubois in this awful Kevin Costner vehicle. Christine Allsopp, Lynda Armstrong, and Daniel Parker were the makeup artists.
Robin Hood (1991): Fortunately for Uma Thurman’s career this TV movie came out the same year as the even worse Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Sian Richards was the hair stylist & makeup artist.
Robin and Marian (1976): Twenty years after the glory days Robin returns from the Crusades looking for the Lady Marian (Audrey Hepburn) but finds that she is now an abbess, and there is still an evil Sheriff of Nottingham. José Antonio Sánchez was the makeup artist.
The Legend of Robin Hood (1975): Diane Keen was Lady Marion in this TV series. Jean Steward was the makeup artist.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938): Olivia de Havilland was Maid Marian while Errol Flynn was Sir Robin of Locksley, defender of the downtrodden Saxons. Perc Westmore was the makeup artist.